Identification of Potential Essential Fish Habitats for Skates Based on Fishers’ Knowledge


Understanding of spatio-temporal patterns of sensitive fish species such as skates (Rajidae) is essential for implementation of conservation measures. With insufficient survey data available for these species in Portuguese Continental waters, this study shows that fishery-dependent data associated with fishers’ knowledge can be used to identify potential Essential Fish Habitats (EFH) for seven skate species. Sites with similar geomorphology were associated with the occurrence of juveniles and/or adults of the same group of species. For example, sites deeper than 100 m with soft sediment include predominantly adults of Raja clavata, and are the habitat for egg deposition of this species. Raja undulata and R. microocellata are the more coastal species, preferring sand or gravel habitats, while coastal areas with rocks and sand seabed are potential nursery areas for R. brachyura, R. montagui and R. clavata. The main output of this study is the identification of preferential fishing sites enclosing potential EFH for some species, associated with egg-laying and nursery grounds. The location of these areas will be considered for future seasonal closures, and studies will be conducted to evaluate the biological and socio-economic impacts of such measures. As in the past, fishermen will collaborate in the process of evaluating those impacts, since they have practical and applied knowledge that is extremely valuable for evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of such closures. In conclusion, this study is a first contribution to the understanding and identification of EFH for skate species, associated with nursery and egg deposition sites, with direct application to management.

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We would like to thank all fishermen from Peniche who collaborated with this study, specially the CAPA associates and its president Jerónimo Rato. A special thank to “Mãe Purissima” skipper, José Manuel Festas for providing detailed fishing ground information from the study area and for his close collaboration in the elaboration of this paper. This study was supported by project EU Data Collection Framework (DCF, PNAB). B. Serra-Pereira was funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, SFRH/BPD/72351/2010 and C. Maia by the Pilot Study on Skates included within the DCF.

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Correspondence to Bárbara Serra-Pereira.

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Serra-Pereira, B., Erzini, K., Maia, C. et al. Identification of Potential Essential Fish Habitats for Skates Based on Fishers’ Knowledge. Environmental Management 53, 985–998 (2014) doi:10.1007/s00267-014-0257-3

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  • CCA
  • Sediment
  • Nursery
  • Rajidae
  • Portugal
  • Essential Fish Habitats (EFH)